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2015 Jaguar XJL 3.0 Review By Steve Purdy +VIDEO

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 Jaguar XJL

The big cat in my driveway is so dark it’s almost black
...and the whole car exudes a predatory feline stance with back arched ready to pounce....

By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

What does this $92,000 Jaguar XJL (long wheelbase) sedan have in common with the littlest, cheapest car in the world, the Tata Nano? Well, they both have four wheels, and Tata Motors of India owns both brands, having bought Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford in 2008. It seems a bit ironic that a company in India, formerly an oppressed British colony, now owns these two classic British brands.

Some of us worried that the Tata ownership might interfere with the Jaguar ambiance, imposing values that reflect something other than the classically British sense of a sports car or luxury sport sedan. So far our worries have not been realized. While Ford ownership helped solve many of the quality issues that plagued the brand in the old days, Tata’s deep pockets have allowed the development of the Jaguar lineup in the elegant, high-performance style for which we hoped.

We reviewed the supercharged V8 version of the XJL a couple years ago and were thrilled with it. This 3.0-liter V6 version is certainly less quick and less powerful but still offers a beautiful and sporting driving experience.

That’s what Jaguars have evolved to be about. The company was founded in the early 1920s as a motorcycle sidecar manufacturer called Swallow The first cars to be called Jaguar were the classically British, fast and sporty SS models of the mid 1930s. From that day to this Jaguars were designed and engineered to exude the prowess of a beautiful big cat ready to pounce.

By the way, the correct pronunciation of that name, if you want to say it like the Brits, has three distinct syllables – jag-u-er – though certainly the two-syllable American pronunciation - jag-war – is acceptable. But, please, please don’t adulterate it like our local cowboy Chevy dealer does during his used car commercials by saying Jaig-wire. How crass.

Now, off my soapbox and on to this fun review.

The big cat in my driveway is so dark it’s almost black. They call the color “Caviar.” Visually, the whole car exudes a predatory feline stance with back arched ready to pounce – a look we associate with Jaguar. A powerful shoulder line extends from the steeply raked A-pillar to the understated, simple rear where vertical taillights integrate smoothly with the rear deck. A distinctive chrome strip surrounds the side windows and the low, sloping top hints at a coupe-like shape. Wheel arches bulge just enough to imply the feline stealth without being garish. This big car really needs those bold, 20-inch wheels to maintain balance because of its overall size and length.

Inside, we’re greeted by beautiful leather, wood and metal surfaces everywhere including a suede-like cloth headliner. The stitching on the dash, seats and other panels suggests the craftsmanship that has traditionally characterized Jaguar. The front power seats adjust 20 ways. If you can’t find a comfortable position it’s your own fault. Seats are heated and cooled front and rear. Everything we see and touch inside exudes an ambiance of sporting luxury. Most unusual is the shifter, a round knob about 3-inches in diameter that emerges smoothly from the console at the base of the center stack when we start the car. Just twist it one way or the other to electrically shift gears. I know they save space and pay homage to modernity but I’m still not fond of any of the electric shifters.

On the downside I found the multifunction screen where we manage audio, navigation, heat, AC and a bunch of other stuff cumbersome and counter-intuitive some of the time. The learning curve was much too high for me. If I owned this car I’d probably miss out on much of its functionality, just like my smart phone. Youngsters will probably have no problem but I wonder how many youngsters will buy this car.

With another big bow to modernity the Jaguar’s analog-looking instrument cluster is virtual, that is, there is no physical instrument display. Rather, a detailed, 12.3-inch, high-definition screen comes alive with dials, gauges and information of all sorts. If we select the car’s Dynamic mode the dials turn red with a gear position indicator that also glows red as you approach red line on the tach. How cool is that?

The copious rear seat has enough room for the biggest and tallest of passengers. . We had a few passengers back there and they were feeling like potentates with vast amounts of room. Because of the low, stylish roofline, ingress and egress is not quite as good as some competitors in this biggest-of-sedans category.

In this week’s case our review experience included a trip to the airport for four of us and all our luggage on our way to a 19-day holiday in Europe. Two of the big suitcases ended up in the rear seat with two of our group because the long trunk could not hold it all. The trunk is very deep bumper-to-rear seatback, but not so deep trunk lid-to floor. It is a good thing we did not have the optional rear console with all its amenities.

Under the hood the 3.0-liter supercharged V6 making a good 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque is powerful enough but lacks the overwhelming thrust of the 5.0 supercharged V8. Our smooth-shifting ZF 8-speed automatic transmission shared by all XJ models compliments this powertrain adding to the mileage and drivability. Jaguar claims a 0-to-60 time for the V6 AWD of just 6.1 seconds and fuel mileage averaging 16 mpg in the city, 24 on the highway and 19 combined. The all-wheel drive system that compliments the otherwise rear-wheel drive is only available on the V6-powered cars.

Suspension geometry and design are conventional with all the chassis dynamics and electronic intervention we expect from this class of car. With thoughtful tuning, impeccable balance and quick steering the ride and handling are superb – everything we would expect from such a sophisticated large sport sedan. But, turn on the Dynamic Mode and things get a bit more entertaining as throttle control gets more sensitive, shift points get more aggressive and suspension stiffens. The cat is in full stride.

The XJL is distinguished from the XJ primarily by 5 inches extra wheelbase which is dedicated to rear seat legroom. The car looks much longer. XJL prices begin at $81,200. Our “Portfolio” AWD shows a base price of $84,700. Options on our test car include the burl walnut veneer trim inside, an Illumination Package and 20-inch Orona wheels with summer tires. Bottom line on our sticker shows $91,495.

That may sound like a lot of money, and it is. But this is a lot of fine automobile.

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